The use of portable devices while driving is increasing as both young and old drivers rely on smartphones in greater numbers. The dangers of the practice are also rising. Research from the U.S.Transportation Department last year indicated that more drivers were in accidents because of distracted driving.
Now Consumer Reports and the Transportation Department have issued a study that shows that 30% of young adults text while driving. "A new, nationally representative survey by Consumer Reports National Research Center showed how widespread distracted driving is, especially among younger drivers: 63% of respondents under 30 years old reported using a handheld phone while driving in the past 30 days, and 30% of them texted while driving during the same period. That compares with 41 percent and 9 percent, respectively, of respondents who were 30 or older."
The danger is probably even more significant because drivers under 30 don't seem to be concerned about the dangers of texting while driving. "Among the under-30 respondents, only 36 percent were very concerned about the problem of distracted driving, and only 30 percent felt it was very dangerous to use a handheld phone."
The survey was conducted in November 2010 with a total of 1,026 respondents.
The Transportation Department will release a booklet called "Distracted Driving Shatters Lives" in an attempt to tell the public how dangerous texting and talking on cell phones is to drivers. Will the release of the data have much effect on the problem? Probably not -- if the use of seat belts and alcohol in cars is any indication. States have had to crack down on these practices with large fines, the revocation of licenses and even jail time.
But the harsher approaches don't appear to have been much of a deterrent to drunk drivers, who are still involved in about one-third of all traffic fatalities. If the threat of jail time hasn't changed driver behavior, the release of a new booklet isn't likely to have a big impact.